How To Begin Your MBA Search, Pt. 2: The Power of Networks

Power of Networking

Read part one of our ongoing networking series here.

It is no secret that among one’s greatest assets is a robust personal and professional network, as it is through these networks that much gets accomplished in the business world.

Even with the power of digital networks like LinkedIn, there is much to be said for creating professional and personal relationships face-to-face. Take it from HR guru Alan Collins, who writes, “pulling together a good network takes effort, sincerity, and time.” Thus, it is unsurprising that time spent in business school is among the most fruitful in terms of building a good network, but there are a number of pertinent issues to consider when deciding which MBA program will help you build the network that you want and need.

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Forget the Rankings and Focus on Your Interests

In order to find the best b-school for networking purposes, you need to discern where your interests lie, and an important aspect of this process is putting aside rankings and finding the program that engages these interests. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a prestigious program, but surrounded by other future MBAs whose desired Rolodexes vary wildly from yours. “All schools have a different set of values, culture, and sense of who they consider a fit for their program. Research that carefully, and then take a step back and really internalize what matters to each school,” says Hillary Schubach of Shine MBA Admissions Counseling.

In other words, if the values and culture of a b-school don’t fit your own, then you probably won’t be able to build as decent a network there as you might in another program. Part and parcel of building that web of important relationships is collaboration, and as Schubach notes, some b-schools “incorporate a particularly heavy dose of team projects into their curriculum, while others are more case-heavy.” Thus, while working with others will always be an integral part of the business world, finding an MBA program where other students share your interests and values will aid in getting you to the point where you’ll have a degree as well as a rich, expansive complex of professional and personal links.

The Student Body and Meeting the “Right” People

While honing in on your b-school interests and personal values are some well-tested methods of assuring you will be able to scaffold a great future network, it is equally vital to do some serious searching as to the student body makeup of the MBA programs you are considering— after all, if you cannot make allies in the b-school setting, that doesn’t leave you with much of a network upon getting your degree.

As Paul Bodine of Paul Bodine Consulting/Admitify notes, “schools have personalities and social dynamics—to gauge your ‘fit’ with them, interact as much as you can with students, alumni, faculty, and administrators.” In other words, finding yourself in a compatible social atmosphere in b-school is almost as important as the material you’ll learn in your coursework.

Consultant Stacy Blackman advises asking yourself, “What type of culture will [I] feel most comfortable in?” Some follow-up questions might include: what do I value in professional and personal relationships? Do I prefer being a bigger fish in a smaller pond, or vice versa? In order to build that strong network while in b-school, Blackman also urges asking, “are there particular teachers, courses, fields of study or extracurriculars that appeal to you at certain schools?”

Relationships are built both in and outside of the classroom, and given that most MBA alums cite network-building as the biggest advantage of going to b-school, finding a program where you can foster such relationships is of utmost necessity!

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